Student Clarissa Arceo: ‘Some doors close so others can open’

portrait of a person smiling

Clarissa Arceo is a transfer student from Norwalk, California. Arceo plans to pursue a major in media studies. (Photo by Brittany Hosea-Small)

This Q&A is part of a series of new student profiles for our 2022 back-to-school coverage. Have someone you think we should write about? Contact

Berkeley News: What year are you and where are you from?

Clarissa Arceo: I transferred from Cerritos College in Norwalk, California. I grew up in Huntington Park, California.

What are you interested in studying?

I’m going to pursue a major in media studies with a concentration in global and cultural studies and, potentially, a minor in journalism.

What interests you about media studies and journalism?

The thrill of reporting. I did a few programs at Stanford and the University of Southern California, and they introduced me to journalism and photojournalism. In high school, I joined the school newspaper. After graduating from high school, I worked for local papers. I started my own photo blog. It’s small, but I’m very proud of it. I love writing about communities and events. I really enjoy writing profiles. My mom calls me “chismosa.”

Is there a person who you’ve interviewed who has had a big impact on you?

My mom. I haven’t officially interviewed her, but she has told me her story so many times. She was born in Mexico in Ciudad Guzmán, Jalisco, and came to the U.S. as a kid. She has faced similar struggles that I have, in terms of not really knowing her own culture. I mean, she grew up with it, but she wasn’t surrounded by it so often. And so, you kind of get the label of “pocha” — not being able to speak your native language or know everything about your culture.

And for her, she grew up the youngest of eight siblings, so she was the baby. Everyone loves the baby, but she was kind of just in the background. She’s also the only girl in her family. She wanted to do all these great things. She studied. She worked very hard.

Does she encourage you to pursue what you’re interested in?

Yeah. In fact, if she hadn’t pushed me, I would not be where I am today. I applied to UC Berkeley as a senior in high school, but I got rejected. I was so heartbroken. But she pushed me to apply again. She said, “Some doors close, so others can open.” And when I got in, she was excited because she had wanted to come to UC Berkeley. She went to USC, which is also a really good school. But she was like, “You’re living my dream.”

Do you think going to community college helped you prepare for Berkeley?

Yeah, big time. It helped me prepare for what a college class would be like and taught me that working hard is a good thing. I think transferring was the best possible route for me. This is where I’m meant to be. I was expecting a huge culture shock, but when I came here, I was like, “There are people who look like me, same culture, same vibe.” While it’s very exciting, it’s also overwhelming. It’s hard to know where to start in building a community.

Are there any communities or clubs that you’d like to become a part of?

I definitely want to apply to the Daily Cal. I’m going to start there.